Ups and Downs Mark 2012 Cardinals Season: A Fan's Recap

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Although the St. Louis Cardinals' inconsistency frustrated fans at times in 2012, the team produced another trip to the postseason.

Here is a recap of the 2012 season:

Record: 88-74, 2nd in National League Central

Manager: Mike Matheny, 1st season

Path to Postseason: Clinched 2nd NL wild-card spot

Postseason Results: Beat Atlanta Braves in wild-card playoff game (1-0); beat Washington Nationals in Division Series (3-2); lost to San Francisco Giants in NL Championship Series (4-3).

Best Month: April (14-8)

Worst Month: May (13-16)

Longest Winning Streak: 5 (June 22-26)

Longest Losing Streak: 5 (May 29-June 3)

Best Player: Yadier Molina. For a combination of offense and defense, Molina takes this title away from the departed Albert Pujols. Molina led the team in hitting and played his usual Gold Glove-caliber defense behind the plate.

Top Three Hitters by Average: Yadier Molina (.315), Allen Craig (.307), Jon Jay (.305)

Top Three Home Run Hitters: Carlos Beltran (32), Matt Holliday (27), Allen Craig (22)

Top Three RBI Totals: Matt Holliday (102), Carlos Beltran (97), Allen Craig (92)

Most Wins: Lance Lynn (18), Kyle Lohse (16), Adam Wainwright (14)

Best Newcomer (Position Player): Matt Carpenter. Carpenter was needed to fill in for several injury absences. He hit .294 and played first base, third base, and both corner outfield positions.

Best Newcomer (Pitcher): Edward Mujica. When the Cardinals traded for Mujica in July I was not impressed. But the righty quickly helped solidify the Cards' bullpen. In 29 games for St. Louis, Mujica posted an ERA of 1.03 and a WHIP of 0.873.

Player Ready to Break Out: David Freese, 3rd base. Freese continued to improve his numbers in 2012, hitting .293 with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs. But poor hitting in August (.213) and a lack of production in September (eight RBIs) kept this from being a great season. Freese will keep getting better, and I see him topping the 100 RBI mark in 2013.

Most Disappointing Player: Marc Rzepczynski. The lefty was so good after coming over to St. Louis in 2011, I was expecting much of the same in 2012. But Rzepczynski struggled all year. He finished with a record of 1-3 and an ERA of 4.24. He failed to dominate left-handed hitters, allowing them to hit .255 with two home runs.

Most Inspirational Moment: The Cardinals had many good moments in 2012, some of which I have already chronicled. For my money, though, the return of Chris Carpenter after surgery in a start against the Chicago Cubs on September 21 was the #1 feel-good moment of the season. A late Cubs home run spoiled the day, but seeing the big guy back on the hill was a great moment.

My Take: It's easy to remember the disappointment of the final three games of the NLCS. But getting blasted by the Giants 20-1 should not be the takeaway from this season. The Cardinals adjusted well to a new manager and to life without Pujols to make another trip to the playoffs. Once there, they won two series and provided another franchise highlight in the Game 5 win against Washington.

With a powerful lineup and lots of young power arms ready to go, 2013 looks very bright to me.

A native of St. Louis, Brad Boeker has rooted for the Cardinals for over 40 years.
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